Breaking: HBO Responds to Racing Show Luck’s Real-Life Horse Fatalities

show 502 thumbforvideopanel Breaking: HBO Responds to Racing Show Luck’s Real Life Horse Fatalities

Unlucky break for 'Luck'

Critics have already been effusive in their praise for Luck, the new HBO show created by David Milch. Executive produced by Michael Mann and by star Dustin Hoffman, the series sets out to expose the seedy underbelly of the thoroughbred racing scene.

But eagle-eyed viewers may notice one detail missing from the pilot episode, as well as one additional installment: the American Humane Association’s usual seal of approval certifying that “No Animals Were Harmed” during the filming of the show. Instead, those two episodes state merely that “The American Humane Association Monitored the animal action.”

That’s because while Luck takes a hard look at those who exploit animals for money, the show itself has come under scrutiny after two of the horses used in the production broke their legs during filming and had to be euthanized.

PETA was the first to latch on to Luck‘s bad luck, in a January 27 article, “Nothing But Bad Luck for Horses in ‘Luck,'” that noted:

While filming the show’s pilot, a horse suffered a severe fracture after falling during a race sequence and was euthanized. Another horse was killed while filming a later episode.

While the pilot of the show includes a scene in which a horse breaks its leg and has to be put down, HBO told The Observer that the scene did not include the animal that actually died, but was accomplished using a combination of “trained” movie horses and CGI. The other horse death happened while shooting the seventh episode of the show; both were injured during short race scenes, and not during stunts segments.

According to a press release from the American Humane Association, also dated on January 27:

The horses were checked immediately afterwards by the onsite veterinarians and in each case a severe fracture deemed the condition inoperable. The decision was that the most humane course of action was euthanasia. An American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representative™ was monitoring the animal action on the set when the incidents occurred and observed the veterinarian on the set perform the soundness checks and approve the horses, prior to racing them. A full investigation and necropsy was conducted for each accident immediately afterwards…

American Humane Association is deeply saddened by the deaths of these two wonderful animals. Protecting the welfare of the animals we serve is not only our mission, it is the passion of each and every one of us who works for this program. Because of these accidents, the two episodes in question do not carry the full certification, “No Animals Were Harmed”®.

Since then however, the certification has been given back to the show, after HBO worked with the association to develop additional safeguards. HBO emailed The Observer: “After the second accident, production was suspended while the production worked with AHA and racing industry experts to adopt additional protocols specifically for horse racing sequences. The protocols included but were not limited to the hiring of an additional veterinarian and radiography of the legs of all horses being used by the production. HBO fully adopted all of AHA’s rigorous safety guidelines before production resumed.”

Kathy Guillermo, vice president of PETA, said  that PETA was now in contact with HBO, though the original article stated that efforts to reach out to Mr. Milch had been rebuffed. PETA is now demanding the names of the deceased horses, as well as their background, be released before the show. A source at HBO added that the necropsy results and the names of the horses are privileged information and will not be released.


  1. Winngcolrz says:

    The horses used in the filming of Luck are trained by a couple of wranglers, (one is Matt Chew, who is a licensed CA racehorse trainer) and from what I hear, his horses are the best ones to work with.

    Surely you’ve heard that horses kill or horribly maim themselves quite frequently doing something stupid? Oh yeah, it happens all the time. No, we don’t like to talk about it. We hate it when it happens and we try like hell to prevent it. We really do. And we cry. And we mourn. and yet we have to go back to work. More often than not, horses do a better job hacking themselves up than we could do on purpose (unless you’re into illegal slaughtering, ritual, abuse, etc but that’s a whole other blog).

    PETA and everyone else has got to get this through their heads: HORSES BREAK DOWN whether they are galloping around a racetrack  pretending to be racehorses OR are a racehorse or are kicking their heels up in a pasture. HORSES DIE whether they are pampered in a stall, enjoying a pasture or being neglected in someone’s back yard.

    I guarantee you that the horses that happen to break down with a horrendous life and/or career ending injury are receiving THE BEST post accident care including treatment, transportation and euthanasia.  

    Really, you people need to get on the bandwagon about homeless, abused and neglected pets if you really want to make some noise that’s going to help. We’ve got this covered.

    1. Veryscarybear says:

      how about we not put horses in situations where they die? just because, as you say, “they do a better job”, doesn’t mean we should give them another way.

      1. Winngcolrz says:

        You’re not getting the picture here, Veryscarybear. Horses hurt themselves and each other quite often much more than we can do to them. Between kicking and biting and general horse play, it’s rough stuff.  Are we to keep horses in padded stalls? (Old racetrack saying “Put a colt in a padded stall and he’ll find a way to kill himself” is exactly on point.) Horses buck and play in a field, they can hurt themselves. Horses react to something strange or loud or scary, they can hurt themselves. Sometimes they have to be euthanized. There are far more– believe it or not–horses that die horrific deaths by neglect and abuse (and NEVER treated or euthanized) every single day in this country than all the racetracks combined.

        The story is about the wrangled horses for the HBO series getting hurt. If you know anything about horse racing, the horses “racing” in the series (the stunt horses, not the actual racing footage from real Santa Anita races), you will see immediately that the horses playing racehorses are not galloping at anywhere close to race speed. My point is that if a horse can get severely injured in a controlled situation with all caution utilized, it can happen anywhere.

        Just like people tripping on a curb or a carpet and fracturing an ankle, it happens like that too, with horses. It’s just completely ugly when it happens to horses.  The CGI of the horse in the first episode who broke down was VERY realistic and thank god, not real.

        Lisa J

      2. TerryW says:

        I’ve owned horses most of my life and I’ve never had one break a leg or hurt themselves or anything else you mentioned.  No animal should die for the entertainment of people.  Since I also know how many race horses go from the track to the slaughterhouse I have chosen not to watch this TV show, I won’t support horse racing in any way until they get their act together and take care of their horses after racing.  I also did not watch the Flicka movie where two horses died during  filming.  And My Friend Flicka was one of my favorite TV shows as a child, I wasn’t interested in watching a My Dead Flicka movie.  This show “Luck” isn’t so lucky for the horses involved in its production.

    2. Your name here. says:

      True true! If a horse is going to break a leg it’ll be on a track or field. It’s going to happen eventually. Peta go suck an egg. Oh, right. sorry, my bad. 

      1. TerryW says:

        No,  it’s not “going to happen eventually.”

    3. Spazzedout says:

      Substitute the horses for people in this story and you would be an asshole. Just because you clearly don’t give a crap about them doesn’t mean no one else does. KEep your opinions to your self.

  2. Kasacasa60 says:

    Race horses are already made for fast money. If winners long money. What do you hear,money . They are pushed to hard to fast. Put your 16 year old with talent and passion in the super bowl. You will be so proud until he breaks something because he is not fully grown. But if you don’t make. Money in two or three years you might as well kill them and call your insurance co. They are glorified greyhounds.
    Please don’t try and profit on their lives.
    Now, you can sell them for meat. Maybe that’s why you jumped in???

    1. Holly says:

       You are only looking at the stories you might hear on the news. The reason you hear about those horses that are pushed too fast is because its the exception, not the rule. Every racehorse I have ever known is pampered, taken amazing care of. They are NOT pushed too fast. If a horse isn’t ready for a race, they dont run him. If they think he’s ready for it, they do. If a horse is injured, they let him recover or retire him. They try their hardest to find good homes for them, its just not possible now with the economy like it is. But when it comes down to it, its what these horses love to do. Its in their blood. If you have ever personally known a racehorse or raced a horse, you know that the cruel thing isnt to make them run, its to not let them run. Go back to your football kid. He could get seriously injured or killed playing football. But if he loves it, with all his heart, would it not be cruel to keep him from playing?

      1. CTnaturalhoof says:

        We can’t just let ourselves off the hoof because sometimes racehorses hurt themselves in other ways!  What kind of logic is that.  that  is akin to someone saying I might as well not fasten my seatbelt because heck you could get hit by a bus or anything.  Racehorses are pushed and started much too early.  Horses should not even be ridden until age four, and they are performing, or whatever you want to call it, at age 2!  And I am sorry, but I really doubt racehorses love to race.  They might love movement and running around in a field, they might be energetic and lively but are they breaking out of their stalls to leap into the starting boxes to subject themselves to a highly stressful tightly knit pack of fellow stressed out equines? and football kid analogy?  please!  we humans choose to do things, we can ask our kid: hey, do you like football?  we don’t shove a bit in our kids’ mouths and whip them down the homestretch. 

      2. TerryW says:

        Then why are so many young race horses sold off at slaughter auctions (such as New Holland) because they weren’t fast enough – or were injured?  Recover – retirement?  Only for a few lucky ones.  Some tracks are now banning trainers/owners who sell to slaughter – not enough tracks though.  There are rescues bidding against slaughter buyers at auctions to save race horses.  Don’t tell me they’re trying their hardest to find them good homes,  I’m sure a few are but they are the exception.  And running 2 and 3 yr old fillies and colts that hard and that fast is going to break them down since horses aren’t mature until between 5 and 6 years old.  Too long for this industry to wait.

  3. Clipcloptoday says:

    Just read this on another site…… sad but life happens. Glad to hear they are stepping up precautions.
    On the 25th of january ’10, the 13 year old grey dressage mare was put down after breaking her leg in an unexpected accident in her paddock. Rest in peace Blue Hors Matine, you will not be forgotten.